Service with a smile may end up taking a toll on worker's mental health. According to new research, jobs that force employees to smile or hide feelings of annoyance like rolling their eyes may be at risk for drinking more often after hours.
Researchers at Penn State and the University of Buffalo studied the drinking habits of 1,592 people who work with the public, such as teachers, nurses or retail workers. The study, published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, found that those who had to amplify positive emotions or resist the urge to roll their eyes may be at risk of drinking more than the average person after work.
"Overall, surface acting was robustly related to heavy drinking, even after controlling for demographics, job demands, and negative affectivity, consistent with an explanation of impaired self-control," researchers wrote. "Surface acting predicted drinking after work only for employees with low self-control jobs or traits; this effect was exacerbated for those with service encounters (i.e., customers and the public) and buffered for those with service relationships (i.e., patients, students, and clients)."
"It wasn't just feeling badly that makes them reach for a drink," Grandey adds. "Instead, the more they have to control negative emotions at work, the less they are able to control their alcohol intake after work."
While putting on a happy face at work makes sense from a customer service perspective, doing it all day can be draining, Grandy said. In fact, the study showed employees who are highly impulsive also worked in a job where employees have short, one-time interactions with customers, like in a call center or coffee shop.
"The relationship between surface acting and drinking after work was stronger for people who are impulsive or who lack personal control over behavior at work," lead author and Penn State psychology professor Alicia Grandey said. "If you're impulsive or constantly told how to do your job, it may be harder to rein in your emotions all day, and when you get home, you don't have that self-control to stop after one drink."